Texas High Recovers From Four-Run Deficit to Knock Off Pine Tree in 14-4A Opener
LONGVIEW — Texas High coach John McClure could not have scripted a worse beginning to the District 14-4A baseball season than the one he witnessed Tuesday night.
But his team stayed the course, and ended up churning out a happy ending as Texas High rallied from a four-run deficit in a 7-4 road victory at Pine Tree’s at Field of Dreams.
The Tigers, after falling behind 4-0 after two innings, erupted for five runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth to shake off a rough start that included five walks and five errors.
“We played giveaway baseball the first four innings with walks and throwing the ball around,” McClure said. “I keep saying that every high school team gets 21 outs and it’s what you do with your 21 outs; you’ve got to minimize their 21 outs to exactly 21. But I was proud of the guys with the way in the fifth, sixth and seventh they really stepped up. We did a good job fighting back, although early, it was bad.”
Texas High starting pitcher Ryan Fant, an Arkansas signee, struggled with his command from the outset. He pitched to just one batter in the third and ended up surrendering four runs (two earned) on two hits with five strikeouts, five walks, two wild pitches and a hit batsman.
“I think a lot of it is probably mechanical,” McClure said of Fant’s performance. “That’s something we need to work on to get him better and more consistent. He wants to be as good as he can be and we’ll get that corrected.”
Luckily for McClure and the Tigers, they had an ace up their sleeve in the form of sophomore lefty Zach Phillips. He pitched five hitless innings of relief with six strikeouts and just one walk, allowing just two Pine Tree baserunners to earn the win.
“He kinda settled us down a little bit, tied a knot in that rope, hung on and gave us a chance,” McClure said of Phillips. “He’s just a sophomore and he’s started three games in tournaments for us, and he came out there and really got after them. I couldn’t be more pleased with him.”
Phillips’ heroics out of the bullpen, however, would not have mattered if not for Texas High’s late-inning exploits at the plate.
Pine Tree (10-6-2, 0-1) starter Chandler Minze baffled the Texas High lineup for four innings, allowing just two hits with seven strikeouts. But a leadoff walk in the fifth to the Tigers’ nine-hole hitter Lyle Preston led to Pine Tree’s undoing.
The next five Texas High hitters reached base. Taylor Jones smashed an RBI single through the right side of the infield, Fant blooped a run-scoring single to shallow center and Anthony Rhone drew a bases-loaded walk to cut Pine Tree’s lead to 4-3.
Pirates reliever Andrew Lee then struck out the next two hitters before facing Clete Norton — the ninth man to bat in the inning. Norton fell behind in the count 0-2 and fouled a pitch off before singling through the hole between shortstop and third base to give Texas High a 5-4 lead.
“Clete Norton was two strikes and two outs, and his hit was huge,” McClure said. “He got down in the count, fought his way back and got a pitch he could hit. He took it opposite field and we were able to score two runs off that at-bat.”
Texas High added two insurance runs in the sixth on Marshall McPherson’s opposite-field two-RBI double into the gap in left-center.
Alex Kugler led Texas High at the plate by going 3-for-5 with a double and run scored, while Jones and McPherson each had two hits as part of the Tigers’ nine-hit attack.
Blake Adams scored twice, while Chris Chadwick and Tim McQuaid were responsible for Pine Tree’s two hits on the night.
Pine Tree scratched a run across in the bottom of the first when Adams walked to lead off the game, moved to second then third on wild pitches and scored on a throwing error by the Texas High catcher.
The Pirates pushed across three more runs in the second. Mason Hays drew a bases-loaded walk to score McQuaid, while John Cravey and Adams scored on two errors by the same Texas High player with two outs in the inning.
Texas High and Pine Tree return to action Friday night. The Tigers host Sulphur Springs, while Pine Tree plays at Hallsville.
Texas High 7, Pine Tree 4
District 14-4A Baseball
At Field of Dreams, Longview
Texas High 000 052 0 — 7 9 5
Pine Tree 130 000 0 — 4 2 4
Pitchers and catchers
- Texas High: Ryan Fant, Zach Phillips (3) and Trevor Danley.
- Pine Tree: Chandler Minze, Andrew Lee (5), John Cravey (6), Patrick Shore (7) and Blake Adams
WP — Phillips.
LP — Minze.
- Texas High: Alex Kugler, Marshall McPherson.